"I've been waiting for this ball club to get mad," said Manager Joe Torre of the Braves (5-1). "When we lost the first-place lead [on Aug. 10], it was like somebody coming into your house and stealing your furniture and you not doing anything about it." That Atlanta finally got mad last week was evidenced by the scars of its opponents. The Phillies were beaten 4-3 when Chris Chambliss doubled across the decisive run in the ninth and then blackjacked when they lost 9-7 after staking Steve Carlton to a 4-0 first-inning lead. Atlanta's comeback was built around Jerry Royster's first homer of the season, Bob Horner's 25th and Dale Murphy's 31st. The Braves blew an 8-0 lead over the Mets but won 9-8 when Rafael Ramirez homered in the eighth. Another eighth-inning blast—a two-run shot by Claudell Washington—knocked off New York 4-3. Gene Garber's 25th save also helped Atlanta regain the lead in the West by the slimmest of margins—one percentage point.
While the Braves displayed renewed pugnacity, the Dodgers (4-2) won most of their games handily. In St. Louis, Bob Welch (15-9) was a 5-2 victor on a four-hitter, and Fernando Valenzuela (17-9) slammed his first major league home run while breezing 11-3. Back home, L.A. punched out Chicago 9-4 as Pedro Guerrero, who hit .550, walloped his 27th homer and stole his 15th and 16th bases. Jerry Reuss then defeated the Cubs 7-1. Such tidy pitching has been the hallmark of the Dodgers' 21-9 surge; the staff's ERA for those 30 games has been 2.76.
Lacking such classy pitching, San Francisco (1-5) fell eight games back. What hurt most during a 4-9 road trip was the team's 7.64 ERA. But the Giants did end a six-game skid by beating the Pirates 4-2 as Greg Minton established a club mark with his 23rd save of the season.
San Diego (2-5), beset by a flurry of worry, also sputtered. Both ace Starter Tim Lollar and Reliever Luis DeLeon came down with arm troubles. Pitcher Chris Welsh strained rib-cage muscles, Outfielder Tony Gwynn fractured his left wrist and Outfielder Alan Wiggins was suspended for a month by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for his July 21 arrest for cocaine possession.
Two shutouts by Joe Niekro and a pair of 5-4 victories over New York buoyed Houston's hopes of moving up. The Astros (4-3), who have won 13 of 20, toppled the Mets when Phil Garner doubled in the go-ahead run in the eighth. And after being blanked for 31‚Öì innings this season by Montreal's Charlie Lea, Houston finally got to him for two runs—and Niekro made them stand up for a 2-0 triumph. That improved Niekro's record to 13-9.
Even the last-place Reds (3-3) were encouraged. Ron Oester and Cesar Cede√±o batted .526 and .364, respectively, and there were three noteworthy pitching performances. Mario Soto, who in his previous outing had been so rattled by the needling of Phillies Third Base Coach Dave Bristol that he was knocked out early, last week tuned out the taunts and turned off Philly 8-1. Best of all was the 1-0 defeat of Montreal behind the combined work of two pitchers named Shirley and Lesley—Bob, who went eight innings, and Brad, who finished up for him. Shirley's ERA for his last eight starts is 2.25. Lesley, a 6'6", 220-pound, 23-year-old rookie who's called The Animal, extended his scoreless-inning streak to 15. Lesley has quickly become a favorite among Cincinnati rooters because of his antics. While on the mound he pounds his glove, vigorously signals strikes and stomps around as if he intends to charge hitters like an angry bull.
ATL 72-57 LA 73-58 SD 67-64 SF 65-66 HOUS 61-69 CIN 50-80
In a week crammed with unexpected events, St. Louis lionized a third-string catcher, the Phillies got heavy hitting from a lightweight and the Pirates won with heads-down running from a pitcher. Now to explain. The player honored by the first-place Cardinals (3-3) was Glenn Brummer, who on Aug. 22 stole home on his own with two out in the 12th to beat San Francisco 5-4. Last week Brummer received a home plate signed by all the Cardinals, as well as a singing telegram. Three saves by Bruce Sutter gave him a total of 29 so far this season and left him with an 0.89 ERA since the All-Star break.
Ivan DeJesus of Philadelphia (3-3), who heretofore had one homer, 41 RBIs and a .234 average, batted .429 with two homers and eight RBIs. Although the Phillies had 22 hits (five by Garry Maddox), they had to struggle to beat the Braves 11-9. Gary Matthews, who hit .417, slugged a three-run homer to tie the game 9-9 in the eighth and drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th. Mike Krukow's 7-1 defeat of Cincinnati pared his ERA to 2.68. Steve Carlton defeated Cincinnati 3-1 for his 17th victory.
When Willie Stargell of Pittsburgh (5-2) walked to open the ninth in a 6-6 game with San Diego, Pitcher John Candelaria went in to run for him. But when Johnny Ray singled, Candelaria missed second, fell and had to dive back to the bag. So Manager Chuck Tanner lifted Candy for another pinch runner. Pitcher Enrique Romo, who moments later scored the decisive run by sliding home headfirst after a single by Jim Morrison. The Bucs also beat the Padres 6-5 as Bill Madlock homered with two out in the ninth and Tony ("I'm a better bad-ball hitter") Pena waited for an off-the-plate delivery and hit a game-winning single in the 11th inning.
The Expos (4-3), after going 110 games without being shut out, were blanked twice. First, Steve Rogers, who had won 11 in a row on the road, lost 1-0 in Cincinnati. Then Montreal lost 2-0 to Houston. Another reliable pitcher, Bill Gullickson, was pounded by the Reds 6-2. But Woodie Fryman continued his mastery over Houston. By retiring all four batters he faced, Fryman chalked up a save and lengthened his scoreless streak against the Astros to 45 innings—and four years.
The Cubs (4-2), whose 18-9 record for August is the best by any team in the East, pulled six games in front of last-place New York. Bill Buckner hit .462 and led Chicago to a three-game sweep of San Francisco by going 8 for 12 with seven RBIs. Despite out-hitting the Braves 12-5, the Mets (0-6) lost 4-3. That was the fourth one-run defeat of the week for New York, which has suffered nine such losses during a 13-game losing streak.
ST.L 74-55 PHIL 72-57 MONT 69-61 PITT 69-61 CHI 58-74 NY 50-78
After John Wathan of the Royals (6-1) stole his 31st base of the season, a major league record for a catcher, a member of the grounds crew tried to remove the bag and give it to him as a keepsake. No matter how much the youngster pulled and kicked, however, the bag wouldn't budge. Umpire Bill Haller then unloosed a fusillade of furious, rapid-fire kicks. At long last, Haller succeeded and the game proceeded. It also took some doing by K.C. to uproot California from first place, marking the 11th time the teams have swapped the lead since May 29. The Royals did it with .333 hitting while their pitchers held opponents to a .236 average. Saves on three successive nights raised Dan Quisenberry's total to 30. George Brett, back after missing 12 days with a sore wrist, went 12 for 21. And for the fifth time in eight such instances this season, Amos Otis got a hit after the man ahead of him was intentionally walked—an eighth-inning single that helped beat Texas 5-3.
If the Angels (3-4) narrowly miss finishing first, they may be able to attribute their downfall to one of the more novel injuries of our time. It seems Reliever Dave Goltz had to go on the disabled list after gashing his right index finger on a clubhouse toilet-paper holder in Boston. Doug Corbett, summoned from the minors to replace Goltz, had his luggage lost en route to Boston and after he got to his hotel was sent to three rooms before finding an empty one. Then, after an hour's sleep, he was mistakenly awakened by the hotel operator. That night Corbett faced Dwight Evans of the Red Sox in the ninth with the tying run at third and two out. Evans lofted the ball to short right, where three Angels played Alphonse, Gaston and Gustavus as they hesitantly converged on the ball. At the last instant, Rightfielder Bobby Clark made a diving catch to preserve a 7-6 win.
Sparky Lyle and Jim Kern, who teamed up for 42 saves and 18 wins for Texas in 1979, were reunited in Chicago (1-5). Lyle, purchased from Philadelphia, quickly got a save, but Kern, acquired from Cincinnati for two players yet to be named, was hit hard in his first two outings.
Three pitchers were hardly hit—Matt Keough of the A's (2-4), and two young Twins, Jack O'Connor, 24, and Frank Viola, 22. Keough muffled Detroit 3-0 on six hits. Minnesota (4-2) moved to within 3½ games of sixth-place Texas as O'Connor whitewashed Cleveland 10-0 and Viola beat New York 5-0.
The Rangers (2-6), who have indulged in assorted forms of Chiles' play (owner Eddie, that is) all season, got some big league pitching from big (6'8") Mike Smithson, 27, who once played basketball at Tennessee. In his first major league appearance, Smithson went the distance and showed lots of pop on his crackling fastball, which was clocked at more than 90 mph, but lost a 3-1 decision to the Orioles.
Another pitcher who had something on his pitches—or so umpire Dave Phillips felt—was Gaylord Perry of Seattle (2-4). Perry's troubles began, oddly enough, when a Bible verse popped into the mind of Boston's Re id Nichols: "No weapon formed-against you shall prosper." When Nichols batted in the fifth, he asked Phillips to check the ball thrown by Perry, who has been accused of prospering for years with the aid of a grease-ball. Phillips, who later claimed he saw a greased spot on the ball, issued a warning to Perry. Two innings later, after Perry threw a pitch to Rick Miller that dropped precipitously, Phillips didn't even glance at the ball; he simply ejected Perry. "It was a classic example of an illegal pitch," Phillips explained. League President Lee MacPhail levied a 10-day suspension and $250 fine against Perry, who forestalled the penalties by promptly appealing the ruling.
KC 76-54 CAL 74-56 CHI 66-62 SEA 61-68 OAK 58-73 TEX 50-78 MINN 47-82
Big innings may well have launched Baltimore's perennial late-season surge. Joe Nolan got the Orioles (6-1) started with a grand slam in the last of the 10th that jolted the Blue Jays 7-3 and made a winner of Dennis Martinez, who yielded only four hits. A six-run seventh and an eight-run third then defeated Toronto 8-3 and 12-5, respectively. In the latter game, Eddie Murray homered from each side of the plate for the fifth time in his career. In all, Murray had four homers and drove across 10 runs. After Jim Palmer won for his ninth straight by beating the Rangers 3-1, Martinez came back to stop Texas 8-3.
For Boston (5-2), it was Reliever Mark Clear who won twice. Reid Nichols' homer sank the Mariners 4-3 for Clear, and then Clear beat the Angels 7-6 when Carney Lansford singled in the 10th, stole second and third and scored on a bases-loaded, two-out bunt by Gary Allenson. Like Clear, Tom Burgmeier was staked to a 5-4 victory over Seattle by Nichols, who slammed two home runs and, for the second day in a row, gunned down a runner at the plate from leftfield. Burgmeier, who pitched 4‚Öî innings of shutout relief in that contest, improved his season's record to 7-0. Another runless relief effort by Bob Stanley—6‚Öì innings—took care of California 4-3.
Graig Nettles had three homers as the Yankees (4-3) turned on the power for a change, clearing the fences 10 times during their four wins—two over Toronto, two over Minnesota. On Sunday, Tommy John, backed by three round-trippers, coasted to an 8-2 triumph over the Blue Jays. Toronto (2-5), meanwhile, got the job done with singles: Willie Upshaw twice drove in the winning run for the Jays against the Yanks. After breaking a 3-3 tie with a two-run single in the fifth and starting Toronto on its way to a 10-3 romp one day, Upshaw blooped a single in the 11th to beat New York 3-2 the next.
Gorman Thomas, who leads the majors in home runs with 34 and is fifth with 94 RBIs, hit two dingers and drove in six runs as first-place Milwaukee (4-2) drubbed Oakland 10-3. Three more homers by the hard-hitting Brewers enabled Pete Vuckovich (15-4) to stop the Angels 7-3.
Glenn Wilson's .400 hitting and a 5-1 win over Oakland by Dan Petry (14-7) were all that could comfort Detroit (3-3). Not even an apology to his teammates could erase the words of Jack Morris, who had implied that the Tigers were a bunch of quitters. Tough to swallow, too, were both the three-hitter that Jerry Ujdur lost to the A's 3-0 and the wild pitch by Dave Tobik in the last of the ninth inning that gave the Mariners a 4-3 come-from-behind victory.
Len Barker of Cleveland (2-4) also lost despite tossing a three-hitter. Four walks in one inning led to his 5-1 loss to Chicago: Reliever Dan Spillner won for the 10th time, thanks to an eighth-inning double by Von Hayes that knocked off the White Sox 5-4. Since May 4, the Tribe has been 31-10 in games in which Spillner, who has a 2.52 ERA and 16 saves, has appeared.
MIL 76-52 BOS 71-58 BALT 70-58 DET 65-63 NY 65-63 CLEV 61-64 TOR 61-70
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
JOE NIEKRO: The Houston righthander lowered his ERA to 2.47 (sixth best in the National League) as he shut out both New York and Montreal 2-0 on a total of only 10 base hits, nine of them singles.
BALL PARK FIGURES
Players who have hit 30 or more home runs in a season with the poorest batting averages are:
1. Dave Kingman, Mets
2. Dave Kingman, Mets
3. Dave Kingman, Mets
4. Rocky Colavito, Clev
5. Gorman Thomas, Mil
6. Ron Cey, LA
7. Harmon Killebrew, Wash
8. Harmon Killebrew, Minn
9. Norm Cash, Det
10. Gorman Thomas, Mil
10. Ralph Kiner, Pitt
*through Aug. 29